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MLB must address September roster expansion

Teams can expand their rosters Sept. 1.Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

How many times have we written about this? How many times have we broached this subject? There are always managers and general managers who rail against the current September roster system, which allows as many 40-man roster players as each team will allow.

MLB and the Players’ Association are currently in negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement, and the September roster issue is on the table, according to a major league source familiar with the talks.

So will anything happen?

“I do think we need to equalize them,” said Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski. “There are many ways to do that.”


Many have advocated a uniform roster system for years, such as former Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, now an adviser for the Brewers. But the cause always has lacked sufficient support.

September is right around the corner, and once again teams must decide how many players to call up. Some teams will have an advantage because they have better players on their 40-man roster.

“Designate 30 active for each [September] game. That would be a good alternative,” said Orioles GM Dan Duquette.

That seems to be a popular suggestion. Even noncontending teams would get to use some of their better 40-man roster players and be able to start making decisions for next season.

Dodgers president Stan Kasten and Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean have different ideas.

“I may be an outlier, but I actually have no problem leaving things the way they are,” said Kasten. “I see the logic in some of the alternatives that have been suggested from time to time. I guess I’m spending more time thinking about issues that I consider to be more significant right now, especially during a collective bargaining year.”

Sabean also likes things the way they are because “it gives you more flexibility to be able to do what you want.”


Maybe the Players’ Association wouldn’t be as on board with the change as much as MLB because it would limit major league participation, but this is for the good of the sport.

The Red Sox obviously need relievers and they could get Joe Kelly, Noe Ramirez, and William Cuevas back up. They could recall Christian Vazquez and Deven Marrero. They could even accelerate Yoan Moncada’s 40-man roster status so he can get his feet wet.

Beyond September, we’ve advocated a complete overhaul of the roster. I have proposed a 29-man roster where you deactivate the four starting pitchers who are essentially inactive on a particular day. This would give teams a true 25-man roster. It would eliminate the need to use positional players to pitch in blowout situations or extra-inning scenarios. It would eliminate the need to use a pitcher as a pinch runner, as Boston had to do in an interleague game against the Dodgers, costing Steven Wright a stint on the disabled list.

The expanded roster would truly reflect the needs of the modern-day game. Starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings and getting injured more often. The game has become bullpen-oriented, but managers are having to pitch their best relievers far too frequently because there simply aren’t enough relievers available with starting pitchers taking up five spots on the active roster.

All of this costs money, of course, increasing players’ service time. But owners are making more money than ever. Expanded rosters would be in their best interests as well because it helps protect higher-priced players by allowing them to rest more. The days of Cal Ripken Jr. playing every game are long gone. In fact, Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop is the only player in baseball who has played every inning of every game this season.


MLB has gone to great lengths in its attempt to shave a few minutes off every game and improve the pace of play, but those innovations are offset by the grind of instant replay.

What should also be emphasized during CBA negotiations is the poor scheduling. If the schedule is going to remain 162 games, and I think it should, then rosters have to be adjusted.

It would be too radical for the league to change the September expanded roster and the 25-man roster at the same time. So might as well deal with September first.

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Benintendi catch evokes memories

After Andrew Benintendi’s highlight-reel catch last week at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., we learned a couple of things.

One, the Rays made a cutout along the wall down the left-field line — where Benintendi leaped — back when Carl Crawford patrolled left field because team management wanted Crawford to make that type of catch.

Crawford, of course, was a terrific player then, but not many who watched Crawford play at the Trop remembered him making a catch quite like Benintendi’s.


It also stirred memories from other Red Sox outfielders about their best catches. As terrific an outfielder as Jackie Bradley Jr. is, he said he’s never made the type of catch Benintendi made during his professional career.

“I made one like that in high school,” Bradley recalled. “It was a chain-link fence and remember going over the fence. I used the chain link to dig my foot into it, and I flipped completely over and made the catch.”

Is making a catch like that better than having a big hit?

“I think they’re both the same kind of feeling,” Mookie Betts said. “If you haven’t done much offensively in the game and you make a catch like that, it feels unbelievable to have contributed something. There’s definitely a rush you get.”

Related: A closer look at some memorable Red Sox catches

Betts made a similar catch last Sept. 25 at Fenway, robbing the Orioles’ Chris Davis of a home run while leaping over the right-field fence.

“You just don’t forget those,” Betts said. “When you snatch a home run away like that you know you’re helping your team win. There’s no better feeling.”

Red Sox first base coach Ruben Amaro Jr. was an outfielder and utility player in his major league career. He remembers making two highlight-reel catches, one at Mile High Stadium in Denver and one at the old Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, scaling the wall on both occasions to make the grab.


“You feel like you’re king of the world for a few minutes,” Amaro said. “It’s similar to a walkoff. It really is. I think all players take pride in making good plays in the field and helping their team with defense. I don’t know if Andrew’s catch is the best I’ve seen, but I don’t remember anything quite like it.”

Watch: Andrew Benintendi’s catch

Apropos of nothing

1. Brian Butterfield’s top three third basemen: Nolan Arenado, Manny Machado, and Evan Longoria.

2. It says here that the Rays will not allow Chris Archer to lose 20 games. He’s at 17 right now. The Rays, who are considered to be on the cutting edge of pitching, don’t want their star pitcher being forever known for losing 20. The last pitcher to lose 20 was Mike Maroth, a former Red Sox farmhand who did it with the Tigers in 2003 when he went 9-21. That was the year Dave Dombrowski started working for the Tigers. “We discussed [shutting him down] in Maroth’s case, but he wanted to continue to pitch,” said Dombrowski.

Last 5 20-game losers
Year Team W L
Mike Maroth 2003 Detroit 9 21
Brian Kingman 1980 Oakland 8 20
Phil Niekro 1979 Atlanta 21 20
Jerry Koosman 1977 NewYork Mets 8 20
Phil Niekro 1977 Atlanta 16 20

3. Should Jose Altuve or Mike Trout win American League MVP if their teams don’t make the playoffs? That’s always been a dilemma for voters, but making the playoffs has to be a major aspect of the award. It’s not Player of the Year.

4. Nationals president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo did it again last week when he picked off Oakland lefty Marc Rzepczynski, who in 56 appearances with the A’s had a 3.00 ERA. We’re surprised Rzepczynski cleared waivers. He would have helped many teams, including the Red Sox.

5. The Rays’ crowds against the Red Sox at Tropicana Field last week were absolutely pathetic.

6. Nobody tells it straighter than Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa, who when asked about Tim Tebow trying out for major league teams next week said, “Whoever’s idea it is, they don’t respect the game of baseball. It’s a hard game. You don’t come in at age 28 or 29. I’m not saying he’s not a good athlete, but this is a hard game and there are a lot of good athletes in pro ball that never get to the big leagues. I don’t think it can happen. There are guys 28 or 29 that are getting released every day. How can you take 10 years off and all of the sudden be facing guys throwing 95, guys throwing sliders?”

7. The Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Orioles seem to be taking the AL East down to the wire. On the final weekend, Boston hosts Toronto and the Orioles play the Yankees in New York. The Yankees are playing like the Red Sox did last season, when they went with younger players and started winning. “It’s a tough division,” Orioles GM Dan Duquette said. “You have to play a complete game every night to win.”

8. The Red Sox open 2017 with a three-game homestand against Pittsburgh.

Updates on nine

Jason Grilli.Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports

1. Jason Grilli, RHP, Blue Jays — Give the Jays credit for picking up Grilli on May 31 in a trade with Atlanta. They traded for Grilli when he was struggling, knowing the veteran would likely come out of it. He sure has. He entered the weekend with an 11-inning scoreless streak. Grilli has always had the respect of Red Sox manager John Farrell because of his versatility and ability to adapt to any relief role. He could be a big player for the Jays down the stretch.

2. Coco Crisp, OF, A’s — It’ll be interesting to see whether Crisp gets his required 130 games to kick in a vesting option of $13.3 million. Crisp had played in 99 games entering Friday, when Oakland had 35 games left. But why would the A’s allow it to happen? Crisp is 36 and hitting .237. The reason he’s playing more now is because Billy Butler is on the concussion disabled list.

3. Tommy Hunter, RHP, free agent — The Indians released him last week when they decided he wasn’t going to figure into their postseason mix. Hunter was rehabbing from a back injury and seemed to be doing well. He could find a new team in the coming days, perhaps the Red Sox, who keep searching for an eighth-inning solution.

4. Dan Johnson, RHP, Dodgers — The former first baseman has become a knuckleball pitcher and was recently signed by the Dodgers, who assigned him to Double A Tulsa. Johnson, 37, was pitching for the independent St. Paul Saints. One scout who watched Johnson said, “Like any knuckleballer, it’s a process. Look at all the steps Steven Wright has gone through to get to where he is right now. It’s about being consistent with his delivery of the pitch. Repeating it over and over and that takes time and practice. He has good movement, throws it at different speeds. But he also needs to develop a pitcher’s mind-set, where a guy like Wright already had that. It’ll take a while, but it was a worthwhile pursuit and a worthwhile signing by the Dodgers.”

5. Brian McCann, C, Yankees — McCann will likely be the focus of trade talk in the offseason with Gary Sanchez bursting on the scene as an offensive juggernaut. With Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira gone next season, McCann could assume DH duties and catch some games. But it appears the Yankees would like to keep getting younger and shed the remainder of McCann’s deal.

6. Jeanmar Gomez, RHP, Phillies — If the Red Sox are looking for another late-inning reliever this offseason, Gomez could be available. Gomez is one of those “out of nowhere” players who has recorded 34 saves. The Phillies have also struck it rich with setup man Hector Neris, so the feeling is they’ll deal the arbitration-eligible Gomez and stick with Neris as their closer. Gomez, 28, could be an interesting get.

7. Jonathan Papelbon, RHP, free agent — Everyone wants to know what’s taking so long for Papelbon to decide where to sign. Perhaps he won’t sign anywhere. We hear through major league sources there may be some family/personal issues involved with Papelbon not being able to join the Red Sox just yet. The Red Sox seem to have an open-door invitation to Papelbon, who could contend as the eighth-inning guy if he arrives soon.

8. Justin Verlander, RHP, Tigers — Just when you thought Verlander was fading, consider that his average fastball velocity has increased from 92.7 miles per hour after his first 17 starts to 94.1 in his last nine starts. That’s pretty amazing for a 33-year-old guy who’s pitched nearly 2,300 innings in the majors to find more velocity in the second half of the year.

9. Clay Buchholz, RHP, Red Sox — We’ve run the gamut with Buchholz, haven’t we? We called for him to be gone earlier this season. Then we realized his role in the bullpen could be significant. Then he made three very good emergency starts. Now he’s going to have a bigger late-inning role in the bullpen. If Buchholz can give the team multiple innings late in the game and eliminate the need for situational matchups, it’s like finding gold. Buchholz is now likely to have his $13.5 million option picked up.

Extra innings

From Bill Arnold’s bag of goodies: “Blue Jays reliever Joe Biagini is the only major leaguer with more than 40 innings pitched who had yet to give up a home run this season through Thursday.” Also, “Rookie Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez has more homers (nine) in his first 22 games and 82 plate appearances than the Marlins’ Dee Gordon (eight) has in 520 games and 2,181 PAs” . . . Happy birthday, Shane Andrews (45), Darren Lewis (49), Mike Torrez (70), and Tom Satriano (76).

Making allowances

Cole Hamels.Associated Press

Rangers ace Cole Hamels had one of the strangest outings of his impressive career this month in a 2-0 loss to Detroit. He allowed career highs in hits (14) and base runners (17), but only two earned runs, in seven innings. In the last 50 years there have been only six other pitchers with at least that many base runners and hits allowed in seven innings or fewer while allowing four or fewer earned runs.

Compiled by Richard McSweeney

Nick Cafardo can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @nickcafardo. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.